Are Zooplankton a Business Continuity issue?

Jun 1, 2016

The environmental impact of plastics in our oceans may not seem like a business continuity issue, however, Charlie looks at a very real threat to your business in this week’s bulletin.

Last week I was trying to have a holiday on the Isle of Coll. We, unlike Europe with their floods, have had fantastic weather and have been at the beach every afternoon with work and revision for the children taking place in the morning. As light holiday reading I have been taking a wander through the Michael Register and & Judy Larkin’s book “Risk Issues and Crisis Management – A Casebook of Best Practice”. The book is 11 years old and quite out of date, so some of the principles have moved on but the case studies are still very useful.

Issues management in a fast paced world

One of the principles the book talks about is issues management and how issues if left unmanaged can build through a stage of ‘mediation and amplification’ to a full blown crisis for an organisation or even an entire industry. The book puts forward the view that if we can identify these issues early we can prevent them ever reaching the crisis stage and the subsequent damage to the organisation’s reputation. The book was written before social media so that the process of ‘mediation and amplification’ is still valid but this process can be shortened to days is not hours if amplified on social media.

This morning’s news on radio Scotland was all about a study published in the journal Nature, by a Swedish researcher who looked at the prevalence of plastic micro-beads in the sea and their effect on fish. The author Dr Oona Lonnstedt, from Uppsala University said that “young fish become hooked on eating plastic in the seas in the same way that teenagers prefer unhealthy fast food” and that ingesting plastics makes them sluggish and so easier pray. Those up the food chain eating the zooplankton then have a concentration of plastics within them which can then affect their health. The micro-beads the study has been referring to are widely used in cosmetics in Europe, although in the USA they are banned. This story adds to the emerging issue of the concentration of plastics in the sea and their effect on wildlife.

I think that for those involved in the cosmetics industry and perhaps all those companies who produce or use plastic packaging this is likely to become a major issue and could escalate to a crisis. This especially becomes an issue for organisations’ which like to portray themselves as environmentally and wildlife friendly. Organic organisations identify plastic in the sea as an issue for them, have the opportunity to do something now, take a position on this or change their products before this could escalate to become a crisis.

What can I do?

If your organisation does not have a mechanism for identifying emerging issues then perhaps you should take on this role or flag it up to senior manager that this should be done. It may be done as part of your risk management process but you may want to actually check that this element is being covered.

So to come back to the title of this bulletin, yes zooplankton can be a business continuity issue and if not dealt with could turn into a crisis for you organisation.

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